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Three things we learnt: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Bristol City

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What was a fairly drab affair, if truth be told, at Loftus Road resulted in the home side securing all three points courtesy of Idrissa Sylla’s 75th minute opener. Queens Park Rangers were just about good value for their win, as in the second half they created more chances, and forced Bristol City goalkeeper Frank Fielding into a couple of smart saves as well as hitting the crossbar via a deflected effort.

The first half was more even, with City going close through Lee Tomlin on two occasions. Bobby Reid almost put City in front, five minutes before QPR scored, as he Cruyff turned to check his man, and with only the ‘keeper to beat, Hoops stopper Alex Smithies pulled off a fine save. Such fine margins highlight on the one hand how close the game was, and secondly what a fairly poor 90 minutes of football it was.

However, QPR fans won’t care a jot as they have now won at home for the first time in the league since the opening day of the season. Bristol City drop to 6th, although they could fall further if results don’t go their way of teams around them with games in hand.

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So here are three things we learnt from QPR 1-0 Bristol City…

QPR are slowly finding their feet

As aforementioned, this was QPR’s first win at home in the league since early August, and this win could not have come soon enough for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and his side. As the game wore on, it looked increasingly likely that there would be only one winner, and it was not the away side. As the 12,552 crowd (nearly 1,000 of which were travelling Bristol City fans) begun to find their voice in the second half, it seemed to spur on QPR. The Rs will be hoping for similar support and form in their next few games as they face Brentford in a west London derby on Friday 28th of this month, before also hosting Norwich City, Wolves, Derby County and Aston Villa in the next few months. Despite a fairly indifferent start, after this win QPR find themselves in 9th position, and only one point behind Bristol City who (at the time of writing) sit 6th. With a sustained run of form QPR should now be eyeing a tilt at the play-offs, especially given the strong nature of their squad.

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Bristol City need another striker

Tammy Abraham is wonderful, yes. He is also human, just 19 years old and needs a rest. The problem is, Bristol City currently only have one other recognised striker ready to take his place – 36 year old Aaron Wilbraham. Whilst Wilbraham undoubtedly has his uses, he is not going to be able to match Abraham’s productivity and clinical finishing in front of goal. Swedish international Gustav Engvall signed for City this summer, but is yet to make a league appearance due to injury. Lee Johnson needs to do all he can to rush Engvall back to full fitness, or even play someone like Jamie Paterson or Lee Tomlin up front to save Abraham’s legs – City will get the best out of him if he plays at 100% and not anything below. That is a short term solution, in the longer term a striker needs to be at the top of Johnson’s shopping list in January.

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Adam Matthews makes a welcome return

One positive from last night for Bristol City was the return of right back Adam Matthews who played 90 minutes, and was the best player in a red shirt on the pitch. The 24 year old Welsh international showed his class, looking calm on the ball and defensively solid at all times last night, including showing his pace by tracking back and bailing out a teammate on occasion. City now have Matthews, Mark Little and England U20 captain Taylor Moore vying for the right back jersey – such competition can only be a good thing for the Robins.

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Bristol City

Joe Bryan would be the perfect signing for Sean Dyche’s Burnley

The 24-year-old has had a fine individual season at Ashton Gate.

Jake Jackman

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Burnley have been the feel-good story of the Premier League over the last two years, as the club are set to complete a journey from the Championship to the Europa League.

The finances in football mean that it is difficult for a club to progress naturally, but the Clarets have shown that it is still possible and Sean Dyche has been the driving force behind their upwards trajectory.

One major reason for their success has been their recruitment.

The club have not tried to over-spend or sign players based on their reputation.

Their approach allows them to sign players tailored for their needs and it is no surprise that the majority of their signings over the last two years have fitted in seamlessly.

It would be a mistake if they changed their approach this summer, even with the added pressure of the Europa League.

In recent days, they have been linked with one Championship player that seems to be the perfect fit for the squad at Turf Moor.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

The Telegraph report that Joe Bryan has emerged as a target for the Premier League club.

They go on to state that Dyche is ready to offer £6 million for the Bristol City left-back as he tries to improve both the quality and depth of the squad ahead of next season.

The rumour mill is starting to accelerate and the majority of media stories need to be taken with a pinch of salt, but this does make a lot of sense.

If Burnley continue with the recruitment policy, Bryan would be a great fit for them and immediately improve their starting eleven at left-back.

Bristol City’s season slowed down during the second half of the campaign, but they have impressed those that have watched them regularly and Bryan has been one of their standout performers.

The left-back has contributed four goals and three assists in the league, in addition to two strikes in the League Cup including one against Manchester United.

He would add a much-needed attacking threat from left full-back and that would provide an extra dimension to the Burnley team.

Although his decision making and defensive contribution needs work, he is a very good young full-back with the potential to thrive in the Premier League.

Bryan is an aggressive defender, as shown by his average of three successful tackles and 3.2 clearances per game.

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At times, he can be guilty of committing to too many forward runs, but that is something that could be addressed.

Dyche is very good at coaching a defence and the 24-year-old would benefit from working with the Burnley manager.

Dyche will be the first to admit that it will be difficult to replicate Burnley’s success, especially with the scheduling problems caused by the Europa League.

However, it would be foolish to make any huge changes to how they are currently conducting business.

Joe Bryan may not be an international with lots of experience in Europe, but he would be a great signing for this squad and fit in immediately.

The Clarets should do everything in their power to secure his services.

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Brentford

Who will win the race for the Sky Bet Championship play-offs?

The Championship play-offs are just around the corner.

The Boot Room

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The Championship is a league renowned for its unpredictability and twists and turns in what is a 46 game long season.

On any given weekend, any team can beat another which makes it one of the closest and exciting leagues in the world.

This season has proved no different, with six teams still competing for a play-off place with just six games to go.

In 5th place currently is Derby on 68 points, three points clear of 7th placed Millwall with a game in hand.

They are at the moment the favourites to secure a play-off spot, with the top three having already practically guaranteed their places if they do not gain automatic promotion.

Aston Villa look to set to join them, with a maximum of eight points needed from their last five games to be sure of making the play-offs.

Gary Rowett’s side have bounced back well from the loss of Johnny Russell in January to the MLS and a string of first-team injuries that have decimated the squad in recent months.

Most of their stars, including Tom Huddlestone and Joe Ledley, returned for their 1-0 away win over Preston on Easter Monday, a result that was desperately needed.

They followed that up with a 3-0 win over Bolton at the weekend, and the goals of Matej Vydra plus the defensive experience of Curtis Davies and Scott Carson should see them over the line.

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Two points behind them in 6th is Tony Pulis’s Middlesbrough, who have seen an upturn in form since the former West Brom man took over in December.

Pulis is known for his defensive style of play but Middlesbrough have scored plenty since he came in, with Adama Traore in particular impressing.

A club like Boro will be expecting play-offs as a minimum, and you would expect them to achieve that goal given the quality of their squad, although even if they don’t get there this season, they will be one of the favourites to go up next season under Pulis.

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The surprise package of this season has been Millwall, with Neil Harris leading his side to an unexpected 7th place berth at this stage of the season.

The Lions have only lost one game all season, that being on New Years’ Day at Norwich.

They have relied on a mixture of youth and experience, with younger players like Jake Cooper, Jed Wallace and George Saville complemented by the likes of veteran Steve Morison, and an immense run of form has given them every chance of making the play-offs, which would be a remarkable achievement.

Most fans surely would have been happy with a mid-table finish on their return to the Championship, but they have defied expectations so far.

They face tricky trips to Middlesbrough and Sheffield United, and home games against Fulham and Aston Villa, but win at least a couple of those and the Lions could be roaring at the end of the league season.

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Behind them on 62 points is Bristol City, who have had a mixed run of form since the turn of the year.

They briefly went 2nd in the table after a Boxing Day win against Reading, just a week after Lee Johnson’s side defeated Manchester United to reach the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup.

They eventually lost on aggregate to Manchester City after giving them a stern test, but have only won twice since then.

Like Millwall, they too face a trip to the Riverside to play Middlesbrough and host Sheffield United on the final day, but they are only four points off the top six and can still make it in.

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Another side who had an excellent first half of the season is Sheffield United, Chris Wilder’s side briefly sitting in top spot after a 2-1 away win against Leeds in October.

They have fallen away since then, currently sitting 9th and behind Bristol City on goal difference, but regardless of whether they qualify for the play-offs or not, it has still been a good season for Wilder’s men.

They drew 1-1 with Cardiff last week, a game which they had the better chances in, showing the fine margins that exist in the Championship.

The Blades lost in the Yorkshire derby against Barnsley on Saturday, a result that puts them four points behind Middlesbrough.

They host Preston before the season is out, a game which could still prove crucial for both teams, and also play Bristol City and Millwall.

Brentford sit just one point behind them in 10th, having shown some resurgence in recent weeks.

Their transfer policy is a very effective one, using a stats model to sign players both from England and all around the world.

Some of their signings appear to be gelling together well, with summer signing Neal Maupay netting the winner in both of their previous two games.

Manager Dean Smith has been linked with Premier League jobs in the past, and has done an excellent job at the Bees, who will surely be challenging at the end of the season.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The final team that have a realistic chance of reaching the play-offs is Preston North End, Alex Neil’s side currently occupying 11th place on 60 points.

They have lost their last three league games, although they were unlucky to lose against Derby and had the fair share of possession and chances against Reading.

Neil’s side face only one team out of the top 11 in the remaining fixtures – Sheffield United – which could work in their favour.

They have missed the firepower of top scorer Sean Maguire, who missed four months of the season due to injury, but his return has boosted the team, who have seen some outstanding performances already this season from the likes of Ben Davies, Ben Pearson and Alan Browne.

If Neil’s side can get substantial points out of their remaining games, they still have a chance of qualifying for the play-offs, although like the teams above them up to 7th, will need to rely on Derby and Middlesbrough dropping points.

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Bristol City

Three ambitious signings Bristol City should make this January

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One month ago Bristol City looked to be in a much stronger position than they are now. Three league defeats in a row to runaway leaders Wolves, Aston Villa and Norwich City put a series of large dents in Lee Johnson’s automatic promotion hopes.

All is not lost for the side from the West Country, however, with a hard earned point away at Derby County stopping the rot, so to speak. The fact remains, though, that City have a number of injuries to key players.

The Robins were boosted by the return of Famara Diedhiou on Friday night versus The Rams, but took two steps back with one step forward, as Frank Fielding and Nathan Baker left the field of play at half-time, with respective groin and ankle injuries.

An already thread bare squad suddenly might have got even lighter.

With a gruelling 90 minutes (at very least), versus arguably the best side in Europe, to occupy Bristol City on Tuesday, before the brutal rhythm of the Championship season snares them again on Saturday with a home tie against Ian Holloway’s QPR, the club really do need some reinforcements.

Ryan Kent (loan) and Liam Walsh (permanent) have been brought in already and, while inexperienced, their youthful energy, bravery and intuition going forward will certainly help the overall team effort.

In some respects, literally *any* players will do – just more bodies to soak up some critical minutes from the first XI regulars.

That said, if City are going to mount a serious promotion/top six push they require more than just *any* signings, the BS3 outfit require players who will really improve and strengthen key positions – taking the workload off of the current players who have (on average) played 300 minutes more than their Championship opponents in 2018 alone.

Here are three players that would strengthen Bristol City as we get stuck into the second half of the 2017/2018 Championship season…

Alfredo Morelos – Rangers

Rangers’ Colombian striker Alfredo Morelos is the most recent name to be linked with a move to Bristol City, although the latest from the Bristol Post suggest these reports were wide of the mark.

The 21-year-old boasts a very impressive goal scoring track record, roughly once every two games, across his time playing top flight football in Colombia, Lithuania and Scotland.

Rangers are unlikely to want to sell one of their prized assets, but every player has his price.

Bristol City broke their transfer record this summer on Famara Diedhiou for a fee confirmed as £5.3 million.

Steve Lansdown could well break this record again within a season if he feels, or is convinced by the scouting network, that Morelos could be the difference between promotion and mid-table mediocrity.

At 21, he certainly has room to improve and could be a useful investment.

Sam Byram – West Ham

Bristol City’s first choice right-back, Eros Pisano, is not returning to training for a few more weeks and, with Zak Vyner now joined Plymouth on loan, the club need a right-sided full-back to take some pressure off of club captain Bailey Wright.

Sam Byram is certainly at the ambitious end of the spectrum, but as the old adage goes, if you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win the raffle.

The youngster has not had as much game time as he would have liked at West Ham and with former Bristol City player David Moyes in the east London hot seat, coupled with City’s recent track record with Premier League loanees, this may not be as implausible a loan deal as some naysayers may suggest.

Lukas Nmecha – Manchester City

With Bristol City being linked, by the Daily Mail, with Manchester City potential loanees after Pep Guardiola’s alleged satisfaction with Lee Johnson’s style of football, a few Citizen academy players have been linked with a temporary loan south.

Lukas Nmecha is one of those names. The German born forward has represented England at age groups from Under-16 to Under-19 with a fair degree of success.

The 19-year-old, who stands at six foot tall, as a striker, does not represent a position of real need for Lee Johnson. However, one could argue that City are so desperate for players that anyone who could help out with 20 minutes here and there is useful.

Especially as the likes of Matty Taylor and Gustav Engvall have not proved themselves at this level, and Milan Djuric remains sidelined for the time being.

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